Warrior Weekend Interview Series

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Hello Space Cadets, like I mentioned yesterday I didn’t plan ahead well enough for an interview series.  I am working on playing catch-up, but let me tell you about what I envision with this.  If you missed it, I’m a combat veteran of the Late Unpleasantness in Mesopotamia.  It changed me, my world view, and the content of the stories I tell.  I’m curious how other veterans in the writing world (authors, editors, publishers, etc.) manage it.  How does it affect their process?

 

One thing that has always been important to me is to support other veterans, so this is my chance to pay it forward.  It is my thanks to the thousands who manned the lines with me.  It introduces them to the world, and lets us reminisce for a few on our shared experiences.  I hope you find this worthwhile, but on top of their military service (for any country), they are readers and writers just like us.  Maybe together we can learn from each other.

 

Since I don’t have any larger post planned for today, I wanted to recommend a book.  When I got back from Iraq my brain injury made reading difficult.  I couldn’t concentrate, the words blurred and I gave up.  Even the large print books weren’t cutting it.  I’d given up, and was listening to my neurologist lecture me again about exercising my mind when he decided to find a solution for me.  If you don’t know, your brain is like any other muscle.  If you don’t use it, you lose it.  When you suffer head injuries, the potential for the loss of said muscle down the line grows exponentially.  To combat that, they recommend brain teasers and the like, in addition to reading a lot.  After much nagging, I set a routine, I wake up and do a Sudoku or crossword puzzle with my morning coffee. 

 

My doctor wasn’t satisfied with a few minutes of mind games so he did some research about an amazing new technology called a Kindle.  It has a few neat features; backlighting, magnification and could read the book to you when you needed a break.  I was convinced, my parents ponied up the cash (gotta love supportive mothers) and I was off to the races.  I started with all of the free books available and narrowed down my searches to science fiction and fantasy.  I’m a huge fan of military science fiction and space opera, always have been since I found an old copy of Heinlein’s Starship Trooper in my local library.  It was old, battered and tucked into the back shelf.  I figured if it was good enough for someone to hide it, making sure it was there for them, I had to read it too.  Since then there have been many other good stories, jaunts through space and the like.  Now armed with a Kindle, I sought out books that fit into that genre.

 

The first successful Kindle search I made from within the device lead me to Terry Mixon and his Empire of Bones Saga.  It was great, made even better by the fact that Terry was an Army guy like me.  Let’s face it, a lot of the military veterans writing science fiction are Navy guys.  They figure SPACE ship, OCEAN going ship…. They’re all ships!  I honestly gave him a chance just because he was from the 101st Airborne too.  I wasn’t disappointed and you won’t be either.  Go check it out!

 

Empire of Bones (Book 1 of The Empire of Bones Saga) by [Mixon, Terry]

 

Finally, I’ll recommend a short story by my boss and science fiction author Tim C. Taylor!  Welcome Home, Janissary is set in the universe I’m writing in, and it is definitely worth a read!  It’s currently free, so you’ll get your money’s worth!!

 Welcome Home, Janissary by [Taylor, Tim C.]

 

Until next time, stay frosty and don’t forget to keep your powder dry!

brown_bess

JR

–> As usual, all images came from the Google’s “labeled for reuse” section.

AN ODE TO EMILY

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Hello Space Cadets, today I decided to spill me soul and show you my heart, my one true love.  How do I start?  She was everything, she was life changing and later became lifesaving.  While I was in elementary school, I had a crush, and her name was Emily.  She was sweet, never said a harsh word (that my 6-year-old self heard) and cared about those who were bullied.  People like me, the fat kid. 

 

Years past, I found sports and lost some of the baby fat.  I grew up, reached the age where I cared about those of the female persuasion, but I looked back fondly on her.  Well, more what she meant to me than who or what she was as a person.  Let’s be real, my memories of her were idealized ones, rather than representing who she really was.  When I dated, I would look back fondly my time on the playground with her.

 

Fast forward to Fort Benning, Georgia in the stifling heat of  the summer of 1999.  Our rifles were issued to us.  Our drill sergeants forced us to name them, and like most boot recruits at the infantry school I chose Laura, my girlfriends name.  Training went on, letters dried up and my rifle earned a new name.  “The Biotch That Never Writes.”  Then I received my “Dear John Letter” and my rifle needed a new name, one with less baggage.  Seeking better times and fonder memories, I named her Emily.

 

Emily was a wondrous rifle, full of sass and charm.  She bucked a little, showing her independence, but in my tender loving hands she came through.  I loved her, we made magic and I qualified as expert.  This trend followed through to every rifle I was ever issued, until I got to my time fighting in the sweltering heat of Mesopotamia. Through every dust storm, every combat engagement, and every sleepless night Emily comforted me and brought me home.

 

Moral of this tale, when you find a good woman you hold her tight and don’t let go.

 

Until next time, stay frosty and don’t forget to keep your powder dry!

 brown_bess

JR

 

—> As usual, the two images I used today can be found under Google’s “labeled for reuse” section.

Author Update

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Hello Space Cadets, how is everyone doing?  It has been too long since I’ve written a blog post, and for that I’m truly sorry.  First, my wife got sick with the dreaded flu, so true to my husbandly duty I provided care.  This involved making loads of chicken noodle soup, manning the fort, and not burning the house down!  Then I got sick—thanks to her generous nature.  Ugh, I hate being sick but I made it through the other end alive.  I would love to tell you I soldiered through it and worked the whole time…but mamma said I shouldn’t tell lies.  I spent several days where I got ZERO done.  Ugh, I was hoping to have book two done so I could be working on book three but it wasn’t meant to be.

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Finally, at the same time I was sick, Hurricane Matthew hit my locale hard.  We had a lot of flooding, which caused a few local electrical fires when water got into houses.  People lost entire houses when flood damage forced the city to condemn them.

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My own personal vehicle flooded, so I’ve had to deal with insurance to get it repaired or replaced.  Luckily, State Farm has been awesome and is even upgrading my rental car to a truck since my injury makes tiny cars painful and no mid-range vehicles were available.  My contract only requires a car, but they are going above and beyond.  I should know in a few days whether they’ll repair it or total it.

All I know at the moment is that they categorized the damage to my vehicle as Class 2 Flood Damage.  They found water in my gas tank, mixed in with my oil and sitting inside the cigarette lighter/power port things on my floorboards.  To be honest, I forgot they were there so I missed them when I did my best to clean the water out of the inside.  Oh, and they found nasties inside my engine itself; things like leaves, trash and other debris from the storm.  I back up to our cities water drainage system and it overflowed.  It is basically a ditch that connects to a lake, which the city made deeper so rainwater had a place to run off.  When we flooded, my car sucked in some of the litter which is sadly in it and it apparently is the opposite of helpful for your engines.

 

On top of all that, my mother’s house flooded and took on several inches of water.  They’ll likely have to gut and redo the entire first floor to account for the water damage.  I’ve spent time over there, as much as I could while being sick, helping pull up carpet and other things which have to be done.  It definitely could have been worse, so for that we are grateful.  All told, Team Handley weathered the storm and came out smiling on the other end.  Some did not, AND didn’t have any flood insurance.  They’ll be struggling, but it taught us a valuable life lesson: BUY FLOOD INSURANCE if you live in a flood zone!!  Sigh, should have been common sense but I guess not.

 

But all that aside, my mother has been busy getting the corporation ready for the launch of our books.  We will have an official bank account tomorrow, and as a gift, she hired someone to do our webpage.  Within the month it will be ready, though likely sooner.  She hired Matthew from MWS Media Creative Services to do a kickass website for us!  When the page goes live, I hope to jump into my previously stated plan for the website.  That means I need to get off my arse and come up with questions for my military veteran authors, and for authors in general, about how you manage your writing life with your home life.  If you guys have any questions along those lines you’d love to see answered, put them in the comment box.

 

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And since I called this an update, I guess I’ll tell you where I’m at with book two.  I’m currently editing it, but I’ve solved all but one of the major plot holes.  I’m currently on page 138 of 202 and hope to get even further than that before the day ends.  My editor is following close behind me cracking the whip.  No really, that wasn’t a metaphor… that crazy Navy bastard has a whip.  I think he used to be an Indiana Jones fanboy.  I never judge, but those Navy boys are sometimes hard to understand.  Me, I preferred Rambo and GI Joe!  Of course, that was back when he was an All American Hero, before the remake made him some sort of UN Merc, but I’ll save that rant for another day.

 

Until next time, stay frosty and don’t forget to keep your powder dry!

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JR

–> As usual, all images are found under Google’s “labeled for reuse” section.

Con Learning

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Since I recently mentioned that I wouldn’t be able to attend HonorCon this year, I thought I would throw up a blog about what I learned at RavenCon 2016. I wrote it immediately afterwards, then promptly lost in among my unorganized filing system. I’m now more organized and have a system, so hopefully this won’t happen again. No, this won’t happen again!

 

Since I want to attend again in 2017, obviously I had a great time at the Raven Con. I also learned a lot of useful stuff that I wrote about right after the Con ended. The Con seemed to be geared towards writers, with a ton of useful panels/classes that helped me immensely. They had everything from marketing in ‘The Age of Amazon’ to editing and world building. I took notes like I was back in college again, arm nearly falling off, and now I want to discuss my thoughts.

Unfortunately, with so many electronically inclined nerds in attendance, the hotel Wi-Fi was basically non-existent so I couldn’t write or edit from my DropBox account. Although, come to think of it, I hadn’t set that up yet. (Note to reader: DropBox is an amazing way to securely back up your files!) Moving right along, this conference was invigorating and I was definitely motivated to get back to finishing my novel. Just the kick in the pants I needed and it worked! Maybe I should find another to push me into finishing book three!

Originally my word count goal was 2,000 words a day, however, that isn’t always possible as life inevitably gets in the way. Hey, I am long winded but even I can’t stop adulting full time!! Without further ado, let me get to what I took away from my first conference.

 

SWAG: The bigger sellers, at least the ones who attended the Con, all seemed to think having things for giveaways at events and on your site are was a must. They had things like coffee cups, phone cases and t-shirts which they sold as supplemental income. It gave them prizes for promotional giveaways and generally just looked cool. As for my swag, I had a buddy make a graphic representation of the unit crest from my book and now we are checking on the legalities of using it. The legalities of art rights aren’t my thing, so I’m letting my editor handle that.  However, for anyone who has access to Ye Olde Facebook, I recommend chatting with the authors there.  The Listeners of the Dead Robots Society had some thoughts on the subject, contradictory to what the experts at RavenCon thought.  They basically suggest your money could be better spent with business card, then any extra cash put into spiffy covers and a professional webpage.

 

PRODUCTIVITY: I received some really great advice on increasing productivity and avoiding the dreaded writer’s block. Such advice was especially good for me as I occasionally get suffer from writer’s block. Well, maybe not blockage so much as my mind tends to wander to other stories and I get things mixed up. Then I have to spend time reorienting myself to the correct story so I can move forward. Basically they suggest that you always stop at a point where you know what scene you’re writing next – this keeps you from psyching yourself out. This makes a lot of sense, so I’ve been using it a lot.

 

BUSINESS CARDS: According to the powers that be, these are a must! Several authors asked for mine when I mentioned I was working on my second novel, but I had nothing to give. I wrote my information down on scrap paper, their convention programs and the back of their business cards, but all for naught. None followed through and reached out, likely because the things I wrote on were easily lost. A nice, clean business card could’ve prevented that and netted me valuable contacts and resources for the future. Instead I am left with a missed opportunity, though not a wasted one since I learned from it. I even received a lecture about these missed opportunities to spread the word about the Human Legion Universe. The anonymous author felt that my loss was SOLELY due to my lack of business cards filled with my contact information.  To be fair though, I didn’t follow through either, which I should’ve done and will do going forward.

 

EDITING: One of the biggest suggestions I came away with was not to edit mid-paragraph. Rather, they suggested waiting until the end of the novel before I went back and edited it. The presumption they were operating off of was that it was a waste of time since you don’t yet know what is important. When you fleshed out the more critical plot points, then you could more accurately target the errors. Also, fine tuning is a tedious process which will slow your word count. What I call ‘the machine gun method,’ where you use the time honored tradition of the ‘spray and pray.’ This is where you ‘spray’ the words on paper and ‘pray’ that the well of red ink dries before your editor is through with your story!!  If you want a good blog, written BY an editor for advice on such topic, click here and follow the link.

 

BOOK BLURBS: Some of the authors suggested making friends with some of the YouTube Book Bloggers to review your stuff. This would help you receive some initial critiques, allowing you to improve your text and raise visibility. This works because it spreads the word to your target audience, though you run the risk from bad reviews so send them final drafts that have been edited! Basically, anyone who has a voice that reaches your target audience should be approached about helping you.  Finding some way where you could help them in return wouldn’t hurt either!

 

INTERNET PRESENCE: According to just about every singe panelist at the convention, this was a must for life in today’s society. The experts in attendance recommended a focus on your blog on one or two topics/themes. This would help you practice your writing chops AND avoid doing the “Buy My Books” route favored by too many. Instead it was suggested that you provide other content to get readers in your door – while providing links to your books. One way of getting traffic to your blog is to write a list of interview questions for bigger authors and mail it to them. You would be asking them to respond so you could post on your blog. The benefit was that you get the association in a Google search, so a Stephen King interview means that your name and his could come up together in a Goggle Search. The benefit to the other author is that they get an open forum to control the narrative, while you receive some exposure. The mechanics of HOW you make sure to link the two isn’t my specialty, luckily I have ‘people’ to handle that aspect of things!!!  Another suggestion was to run contest on your blog where the prize is to have a secondary character in the book, named after you or you get to name some piece of equipment. Basically, fan involvement and connections. The fans get to be redshirt characters and participate in the creative process.  I’m unsure, and it wasn’t mentioned, of the legal considerations of using real people as characters in your novel and it is something I want to look into.  The people SAY they’re okay with things but you want to cover your backside for posterities sake.

 

WRITING GROUPS: The consensus was these groups are a mixed bag. They can be helpful, but you need to be wary of any groups which are more interested in ‘talking’ about being writers than actually ‘writing.’ Further, you can sometimes start to run into trouble as you get more serious about your writing since you might offend those for whom it is a hobby. Basically, if you are interested in pursuing writing as a career, join a group of like minded folk. If, however, writing is merely a private pleasure you should find a group with similar intent so that you can best meet each others needs. One thing they seemed to agree upon was that internet groups were not recommended. It was mostly about the lack of accountability in the way the groups were managed, but it is possible you could find an internet group that actually served its intended purpose, invalidating their cautionary tales. Like I said, they just felt that meeting in real time gives people more accountability for their actions.  While not a writing group, per say, I HAVE found the other WordPress bloggers to be encouraging so that might be an option.  Author Kim Chance has a blog where others can connect to find themselves critique partners which could be a route for you to consider.

 

HISTORICAL MINING: Finally, the various panels of authors felt that you should never forget that you shouldn’t forget to pull ideas for the future out of a shared knowledge of the past. Patterns repeat and can be adapted for futuristic space sagas. This is where my historian training could be a huge asset!! That, and my ability to research. While they didn’t cover this in relation to fantasy, or if they did I missed the panel as I focused on science fiction, the past could also serve as inspiration. If you doubt me, look up this wee phenomenon known as Game of Thrones! 😛

 

I know that this isn’t exactly profound, or even something that isn’t already known, I still figured I’d share it because it refreshed my own memories of the experience of attending RavenCon 2016! If you have any thoughts on these topics, feel free to comment below…. I look forward to hearing from you!